Sunday, March 29, 2020

Literacy Lockdown!

Last year at this time, I was celebrating Drop Everything and Read Day with kids at Cheekwood!  It was one of those perfect moment days....

This year we're social distancing at home.  And I have to say, I really miss reading to kids, walking the gardens, and celebrating the sights and smells of spring among the tulips, daffodils, and hydrangeas.  

But we can all take this time to press pause and celebrate literacy - and of course Drop Everything and Read.  

Here are a few other reading/writing ideas for a productive Literacy Lockdown:

  • Look up five new words
  • Write a favorite author or post a stellar review
  • Read past your bedtime
  • Write a poem
  • Host a virtual book club
  • Create a character
  • Re-read a favorite children's book
  • Write a diary entry of a favorite character - in voice
  • Make a bookmark
  • Make a video reading a children's book; post on Youtube
  • Play word games 
  • Complete a crossword puzzle
  • Read something that makes you laugh or cry over the phone to a friend or family member
  • Read waaaaay past your bedtime! 

Be well...Be safe...Be neighborly...and always get your read on!


Saturday, February 8, 2020

Valentine's Literary Love Quotes

Need some passion inspo this Valentine's Day?  Whether you're feeling mushy, gushy, or crushy - look no further than a book for a swoon-worthy literary love quote.  

Here are some of my favorites:

"Do I love you? My god, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches." 
—William Goldman, The Princess Bride

"When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun." 
—William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet

"You might not have been my first love, but you were the love that made all the other loves irrelevant”
—Rupi Kaur, milk and honey

“I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.”
–Pablo Neruda, Sonnet XVII

“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.” —A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

“Don't ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn't fall in love, I rose in it.” 
― Toni Morrison, Jazz

"Love shook my heart
Like the wind on the mountain
rushing over the oak trees." 
— Sappho

"We loved with a love that was more than love." 
—Edgar Allan Poe, "Annabel Lee"

“You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.”
—Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind

"Who, being loved, is poor?" — Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

"I will not play at tug o' war.
I'd rather play at hug o' war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins." 
— Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

For more literary love inspiration and classroom activities, check out my Literary Love Quote Task Cards and Valentine's Day Literary Bundle

Love, read, and write with abandon...HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!! 

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Janus Words for January

I’m a word nerd.  I love them.  I keep files of cool words and will text myself ones I come across when reading for further reflection.  I’ve been known to look up words in the middle of the night, which means I must dream about them.  Yes – Word NERD!  I love anagrams, puns, and word etymology.  And French words and phrases...don’t get me started!  Nothing is more fun to drop in casual conversation.  Must be a je ne sais quoi thing.

So for January, I thought it would be fun to write about Janus words.  A Janus word is a contronym or a word with two opposite meanings.  Appropriately named after the Roman god Janus, who is depicted with two opposite faces, Janus words are spelled the same but function as auto-antonyms.

Ten Examples of Janus Words:

  • Bolt – to secure OR to run away
  • Clip – to separate OR to join
  • Fast – firmly fixed OR moving rapidly
  • Left – to leave OR to remain
  • Oversight – inadvertent mistake OR watchful care
  • Rock – to be firm OR to sway or tilt
  • Sanction – to allow OR to prohibit
  • Screen – to display, such as a film OR to conceal
  • Trip – To dance or skip OR to stumble 
  • Weather – to endure OR to erode

So get two-faced and create some juicy sentences with Janus words.  Or add to the list.  In the interim, reflect on this sentence: “Because of the teacher’s oversight, the students’ behavior was sanctioned.”  This could be interpreted two different ways as a result of the Janus words oversight and sanctioned.  Either way someone ran a tight ship or got off scot-free.  How I loved that latter kind of teacher.    

Ahhh…word play!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

'Tis the Season for Window and Mirror Books

             ‘Tis the season of giving so I challenge everyone to adopt a classroom and help a teacher “Build Your Stack” chock full of window and mirror books.  #BuildYourStack is the National Council Teachers of English literacy initiative that focuses on helping teachers build their book knowledge and their classroom libraries.  Window and mirror books is my own add-on for giving kids access to books that reflect themselves and the world around them - in a time when this call to action is needed most. 
             So what is so formative about window and mirror books?  

The simple fact is we live in a world that is multicultural, plural, and diverse.  It’s time our libraries, classrooms, and homes reflected this important truth. Literature is a socializing agent that literally tells children what the world values through the messages it sends. To wit, every child must have access to MIRROR BOOKS first to confirm and celebrate their reality.  And every child must have access to WINDOW BOOKS to expand their worldview andteach them to be global citizens.

To understand the impact of what this really means, we must understand the power of literature by looking at it through a different lens and avoiding the danger of the single story.  Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks of the danger of the single story in her beautifully powerful 2009 TED TALK.  She warns, “The single story creates stereotypes and problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.  They make one story become the only story.”  

Chimamanda, who grew up in eastern Nigeria, explains to audiences how she learned to read and write at an early age modeling her stories solely after window books.  As a young girl, Chimamanda had no access to mirror books that reflected her reality and this affected her sense of how the world worked.  Now that we know the difference, we must do better…but teachers and librarians need our help!   

This holiday season help a teacher build their stack of window and mirror books that ensure literacy engagement and make reading a joyful and purposeful activity. Let’s empower children with the opportunity to discover the varied richness of our world through the transformative power of literature, one story at a time.  …Because the right book in the right hands can transform a life - and that is the true spirit of Joy, Love, and Peace.   

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Teaching Mood and Tone

Teaching tweens the nuances of mood and tone can be a challenge.  The terms are often interchangeable i.e., misused, and in a middle schooler's mind, they are sort of formless and abstract.  Yet, mood and tone are a very powerful literary concept.  They are literally what give text its "texture."

Enter my go-to visual Mood/Tone guy:

As the little guy above illustrates, the drive-through version of tone is the author's attitude toward the subject, and mood is the feeling of the reader.

Specifically, to teach tone, I refer to the anti-phony Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye:

  • "All morons hate it when you call them a moron.
  • “If a girl looks swell when she meets you, who gives a damn if she’s late? Nobody.”
  • “Catholics are always trying to find out if you’re Catholic.”
Holden’s tone is bitterly sarcastic and critical as he ruminates on the nature of things and the hypocrisy of people.  Salinger's tone is achieved through word choice.

Some words used to identify tone could be:
  1. Anxious
  2. Bold
  3. Confrontational
  4. Curious
  5. Dismissive
  6. Encouraging
  7. Hip
  8. Hopeful
  9. Open
  10. Overbearing
  11. Passionate
  12. Sarcastic
  13. Smarmy
  14. Suspicious
  15. Uncouth
  16. Upbeat
  17. Urbane
  18. Wisecracking
*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

To teach mood, I present Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken":

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

The gloomy, somber mood belies a voice and feeling of regret.  The speaker took the road less traveled, but wishes he could have traveled both.  The reader is left with the grave, somewhat melancholic fact that we only have one life to live, and choice is everything.

Some words used to identify mood could be:
  1. Alarming
  2. Brooding
  3. Buoyant
  4. Comical
  5. Confining
  6. Cool
  7. Dark
  8. Fantastical
  9. Hopeful
  10. Light
  11. Melancholy
  12. Ominous
  13. Oppressive
  14. Relaxed
  15. Sexy
  16. Spooky
  17. Suspenseful
  18. Warm

So forge ahead.  Demystify mood and tone, and teach author's style with aplomb.  Your students will catch on in no time, hopefully eager to hone their own writing style.

For more classroom activities and lessons on mood/tone and other literary concepts, visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers:

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Six-Word Scary Story Starters

Spooky Season is upon us and six-word stories are all the rage!  Here are (32) Six-Word Scary Story Starters to keep the spooky in your writing.  

Six-Word Scary Story Starters

1) Three people enter cave.  Two leave.

2) Babysitter needs job.  Loves kids.  Kinda.

3) Looks in the mirror.  No mouth.

4) Beautiful house.  Backyard cemetery.  For sale.

5) App downloads virus - in its users.

6) Mechanical pencil erases mistakes.  And memory.

7) Neighborhood has party.  Hosts are vampires.

8) Creepy basement.  Rickety staircase.  No escape.

9) Circus clowns revolt.  No one laughs.

10) Wife wakes up.  Husband does not.

11) Adorable puppy turns into demonic dog.

12) Selfie pics sent by unknown user.

13) Found: Mason jar with unknown species

14) Girl keeps swinging.  She’s not alive.

15) Grieving scientist clones deceased wife.  Oops.

16) They entered the elevator.  That’s all.

17) Purchased antique painting.  Haunted.  Buyer’s remorse.

18) Couple has nightmares.  They come true.

19) Museum coffin won’t open.  Pounding inside.

20) Peaceful ocean swim.  Dorsal fin.  Ouch!

21) Clock runs backwards.  Time does too.

22) Tour guide loses group.  On purpose.

23) Locked doors and windows.  Forgot one.

24) Perfect suburban neighborhood.  Until freak accidents.

25) Doorbell rings.  Gift.  Worst present ever!

26) New boyfriend.  Neither boy or friend.

27) Office coffee maker brews deadly decaf.

28) Children’s voices fill park.  No kids.

29) Vacationers open their suitcase.  It bites.

30) Quiet road.  Abandoned car.  Open door.

31) Feeling the creepy crawlies.  Spiders everywhere!

32) Voices heard upstairs.  Everyone is downstairs.

Teach English?  Teens and tweens love to be scared! Now your students can apply the six-word writing prompt and create their own scary stories with engaging (32) Six-Word Scary Story Starter Task Cards. These task cards are sure to generate rich narratives from your students as they combine story elements (setting, dialogue, conflict, etc.) with their own innate creativity. Perfect for Halloween, Creative Writing class, or any other time!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Celebrating the Freedom to Read

What do Captain Underpants, Harry Potter, and To Kill a Mockingbird have in common?  They're all banned books!

Some of the other most "challenged books" of 2018 according to librarians and teachers across the country are:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Reasons: banned and challenged because it was deemed “anti-cop,” and for profanity, drug use, and sexual references

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Reasons: banned, challenged, and restricted for addressing teen suicide

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: banned and challenged for sexual references, profanity, violence, gambling, and underage drinking, and for its religious viewpoint

Which brings me to the are the top ten:

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

2. The Catcher in the Rye

3. To Kill a Mockingbird

4. Bridge to Terabithia

5. The Lord of the Flies

6. Of Mice and Men

7. The Color Purple

8. Harry Potter Series

9. Slaughterhouse Five

10. The Bluest Eye

Banned Books Week 2019 will be held September 22 – 28. The theme of this year’s event proclaims “Censorship Leaves Us in the Dark,” urging everyone to “Keep the Light On.”

Pick up a banned book this week and celebrate the freedom to read!!